19 years ago - Who remembers the Special K women's Triathlon
Calling all who remember the Auckland Special K Women's Triathlon! It was 2004, and someone in the team (I won't mention names) said "lets do a triathlon as a workplace". It doesn't sound much looking through the lens of today, particularly given every summer now there are entry level events all over the country, but back then, this was a new thing. And the idea that you could do a supported women only event which had no barriers to age, size, ability, fitness...the point was getting out and having a go, it was almost unheard of here. The result of that event though was that 1000's of women across the country worked to get fit enough to participate in probably one of the most supportive and encouraging organised fitness activities for women seen on a large scale in Aotearoa.
Our team had our own experience with this, way back in December 2004, a group of 10 team members from Diabetes Projects Trust (as Diabetes Foundation Aotearoa was previously known) got together with much enthusiasm and very little knowledge, and "trained" over Christmas for what was then one of the biggest and scariest things many had ever done. It was such a different time, communication was by EMAIL rather than social media! There's more detail about the experience here https://ironmanourway.blogspot.com/2011/11/karen-writes-how-we-started-triathlon.html?q=special+k
Anyway, 19 years later, it's worth reflecting on the value of that effort which on occasion is still discussed with great fondness around the lunch table today. All who participated were taken far from their comfort zones, and there's a degree of amazement considering where the challenge took them, and how much they achieved. This includes the never forgotten bravery of one team member learning to ride a bike in the office carpark purely for that effort. Reminiscing about efforts to source the equipment and clothing and childcare and...and...and, it was surely a positive thing for team morale as well as the more obvious fitness. It certainly gave participants (and their supporters) justifiable pride at over that long ago summer, reinforcing that the seemingly impossible can be achieved, especially with a bit of help and motivation from team mates.
In the longer term, some tucked away their medal and t-shirt in a drawer and quietly gave their bikes away to the next generation coming through, others kept exercising at different levels. Two went on to become multi-marathoners and Ironmen and still maintain that fitness today, definitely a change from their expected fitness trajectories which would have been very unlikely to happen without Special K.
So at the start of another year, perhaps it's timely to revisit the value of team motivation. These days, while Special K isn't around, there is infinite variety in possible events ranging from online step challenges, to virtual races, to fundraiser efforts. While not perfect, the variety and price of sports wear for a wide range of sizes and shapes is much improved, a definite advantage today. But the key in a workplace (or family event) is having someone to keep things moving along, perhaps this summer season that person can be you?